At least three were injured in a bomb blast as people left a mass at Our Lady of Hope Church last Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, World Watch Monitor reported.

The bomb exploded outside a Catholic church in the southern Philippines, and a Filipino cardinal called it “terrorism.”

The bombing happened in the town of Esperanza, and Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato said it was “made worse because of the sacredness of the place, the sacredness of the day, and the sacredness of the event that had just taken place,” the Union of Catholic Asian News reported.

Quevedo said the bombing was “an attack on innocent human lives (and) an attack on freedom to worship.” He called on authorities to bring to justice those behind the attack.

A regional police spokesman said intelligence officials believe the homemade bomb was placed there to distract the army from its offensive against the Maute, a radical Islamist group that has pledged loyalty to ISIS.

Authorities set up police and military checkpoints around the province.

Meanwhile, clergy in the capital of Manila say masses could be canceled because of a greater threat of attacks.

Last Monday, authorities detonated safely a bomb that was discovered near the U.S. embassy. The incident led police to set up checkpoints around Manila as well.

“The Church, for practical purposes, will be more than willing to suspend any liturgical activity if there are threats to the safety of churchgoers,” said Fr. Jerome Secillano of the public affairs committee of the Catholic bishops’ conference.

Investigators say another group that has pledged allegiance to ISIS is believed to have been responsible for the bomb in Manila.

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